1863: James Mc___ to Jennie

These four letters were written by the same soldier who was likely a member of the 10th Virginia Infantry based on the content of the letters but I can’t be certain. The 10th, 23rd, and 37th Virginia were brigaded together in Colston’s Brigade in the spring of 1863 and were positioned in the Blackwater region of Virginia. He writes better than the average Confederate soldier and implies he has duties above those of a private. In the last two letters he seems to have been detailed to Richmond for some unknown reason.

All four letters were written to a woman named Jennie who was from his hometown with whom he seems to have carried on a regular correspondence.


Camp near Franklin, Virginia
March the 6th 1863


I again write. I received your short letter a day or two ago. I was happy to learn of you. I been to think that you had forgotten the lowlander, or the Yanks had caught you. You wished to be “excused” for your “short note.” I have a great notion to scold some for your not writing more. But you was “reading” the “Bible,” a good book, and couldn’t. Very well. I expect mine will be the same way, as the duties of the company will deprive me for the present. Ah, yes, “excuse,” certainly I will. Why not? I think it would be worse than cruel to scold one that has taken such pains as Jennie has to console a weary soldier. Think not, Jennie, that I wish for the contrary.

O Jennie, I predict that you will get a valentine partly written in characters. I’ll tell why I think so—I dreamed it. θ.7.7. was signed at the bottom. Mind, if I haven’t said right. Take good care of it. I want to see it when I come back.

Well, you say “Cousin Sam” was over (last Sunday). Thar! I thought he’s be over. He scared the Dr. off, did he? I do think on my soul—-Ha! Ha! me’s tickled. Law, what did he have to say? But that ain’t for question. Mom used to say, “never tell tales out of school.” Well you might tell me some of the less important. I bet I can guess who went with Han to quarterly meeting. “Cousin Sam.” Ha! didn’t he? Well, no use to wish I was there to go to quarterly meeting—you know I do.

Well, that bargain I’ll agree to. I’ll take the kiss and you the gift. I won’t promise to take no more than one—I might take a couple. See about it. Whatever you demand, life literally excepted, shall pay the gift without any grumbling. The sugar I’ll eat up first mouthful—don’t care how much there’ll be of it.

Well I’ve answered the letter nearly all except “a good wife”, “pleasant dreams” and that sweet prayer. To take them separate, “the wife” I hope to see again if I ever saw her, and “the dreams” is rather a mixture. I dreamed one most pleasant one the other night. Jennie was in the vision. That prayer? I have to say, “heaven protect the kind Jennie.”

I must close, and Jennie, excuse this one leaf. I haven’t time to write the other, and paper is scarce—none scarcely to be gotten. Excuse it, will you? I have no news to write whatever. I must say health with me is most excellent. No change on that score. I wait to hear from you. Delay not. You may expect the next on a more enlarged scale.

P. S. [Raleigh Edward] Colston has taken command at this post. [Gen. R. A.] Prior is gone. I close by saying no offense is intended and excuse if any given. Yours as ever, — Jim M.

Pleasantry to thee.

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 7.09.14 AM


Camp Morse’s Neck, Va.
April 25th 1863

Dear Jennie,

After knocking around, breaking the breasts, pulling through the mud, traveling up and down the hills, over the ridges, across the creeks and through the storms of cold days and through the pleasantry of some of the pretty days, I at last have read another issue from you. I must confess that I had concluded that the Yankees had caught Jennie or that she was very busy at something of import.

But your reasons were sufficient. Besides, your letter was delayed, not having received it til yesterday. Its date bore April 11th 1863. Be ye assured that I was much delighted to read so cheering a note—especially from Jennie I. Ah, yes indeed. Permit me to say that I feel deeply interested for you, my representative friend of sweet nativity. Ah, you think I jest. Nay, verily.

Well Jennie, since some time ago we had quite a jolly ride, the details of which, to some extent, I gave you in my last issue, which I wrote some days since. I gave you an account of the Fredericksburg affair, I think. Yes, I did, and sent you a piece of Cedar. Oyes. Well nothing of particular note has transpired since then. We are drilling every day and preparing for a summer campaign. They have the banks of the Rappahannock fortified 40 miles. Our lines extends also several miles.

Many more brave hearts live down in these hills and flints. We have some such news that our regiment will return to the northwest sometime but I do not think so. I think we belong to Jack[son]’s Corps and he will find a use for us. Very well, I am satisfied anywhere and shall be during this war, except when the bullets are flying. Then I’d rather be with Mammy, somewhat.

Well, I guessed you got a puzzle and I hit it sure enough. O yes! Yes, I did that. But Oh Jennie, I told a little story. Say, I told it in fun. I was just joking about drumming. I did write it. And somebody told me that Jennie didn’t like it. That I hurt your feelings. I don’t believe it though. I can’t think it at all. But, O Jennie, if it be so, will you excuse e this time? I was joking you, thinking that you was fond of puzzles. But there is another one, that April fool. I meant no harm by it. I thought I’d tease you with young [paper torn and creased]. Now Jennie, you must pardon Mc this time and I’ll promise, yea vow, to do so no more without your consent. I’ll kiss you a dozen times when I see you and pay a Christmas gift and New Year’s gift. What say you?

Now come, you must not get mad. If you do, I’ll think you cruel for crippling one poor heart way down here. Ah, why should I maliciously insult sweet Jennie? Not I would be guilty of such. I hope that I haven’t insulted you. Why do I speak so? Let me say—and that with a truth—I believe it not. Well do I know that generous and sympathizing heart of thine. Always ready to forgive, console, and soothe. That meek eye of thine has told me as in days that are past and gone. Yea, when that good old word “goodbye” which was uttered with a sigh tended with words of advice at our parting, still linger with me. Yes, they not only linger with me, but they add more free to the flame which burns in my bosom of which I find would [paper torn & creased]. When I speak thus, I speak sentimental, be ye assured. I hope to see you again. Ah yes, I want to sing some more. O Jennie, I wrote that piece of poetry signed “Homer” for your album. Keep it will you? I sent you those characters, probably I spelled some wrong or used wrong characters. Correct them. O yes, Jennie, I’s a candidate. Did you know it? I’m a bag___. Don’t get played. I want you to lectioneer for me with your dad and brothers, will you? Tell them help me out and I’ll not forget them. I swear I’ll never forget Jennie. Never, no never. Heaven bless you. Write, write. 

Yours, [smudged and illegible]


In the Hall of Richmond [Virginia]
September 10th 1863

Dear Jennie,

Leaving our mountain home as ordered under the circumstances which then existed in reference to the raiding of the enemy. I have very nearly gone into the belief that the mails have ceased to [  ] or visit you. Though I venture a written. If you get it, you can read it. Otherwise you cannot. Well [paper torn] …way, weather was very warm and I felt somewhat oppressed.

I had good luck in reaching this place landing on Sunday morning [September 6th], Nothing particularly interesting occurred on my way except having a bunch of Fox grapes under the name of English for one dollar. Hung them up in the coach for the purpose of using them in a short time. Changed cars at Burkeville and forgot my grapes! The nigger had my dollar and my grapes suspended in the coach at Burkeville. My face grew somewhat long for a time but resumed its natural form after awhile. Well, I found a room—No. 56—away in the top of what they called a tavern, threw down my satchel, took a chair and—–sighed—-I believe it is what you call it. Ah! you [paper torn]…I took a hearty one for it was nearly the first since I left home. I enjoyed it finely. Went back and took a nap of sleep for I was perfectly sleepy headed. Hadn’t slept any for two nights. When I awoke I felt much relieved. Evening had come on swiftly.

I brushed up me eyes and took a walk to Capitol Square, round and back. Felt much relieved. Saw many curious things, heard many and varied sounds. The Ladies and Gentlemen were promenading the streets in gaily pleasantry and the negroes seemed to be enjoying themselves. I presume it must be the habits and customs of city life. Blame the city life! too much of it. I’d rather be among the primitive of the old mountains. Verily, I’d rather be plowing and somebody at the house frying the cabbage and fixen things round and taking care of the children, and the such like.

Oh! Well, it is just so and no other. Do you recollect what I wrote on your hand [  ]. But you said I “told stories” [paper torn] never, never did I. If you but knew all I know, you would be astonished. It is no dream. You shall hear it at some future day. Will I be pardoned?

I think I surely will. Jennie, thou will. Well in my walk, I saw the monument of the memory of Old George Washington. It is about forty feet high. On the summit is General Washington mounted on a fiery steed. He (Gen’l W.) in the attitude of pointing to some pressing place of the battlefield and his horse hurrying forward with him. Lower down stands on three corners the statesmen Patric Henry, Mason, and Tom Jefferson. This monument stands in Capitol Square [paper creased] beautiful [    ]. It is on a considerably hill. The air incessantly blowing and the city resort here for the purpose of taking evenings walks, promenading &c. Here you see the curious, learned, able and beautiful all enjoying themselves.

Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 9.11.03 AM


Richmond City, Virginia
October the 18th, 1863

Dear Jennie,

I will drop you a short note for which you will excuse me. Probably the Yanks have left our home and this will reach you. We are still here doing nothing and no likelihood of our breaking up. Some think we will adjourn in a week. I don’t think so. I hope they may.

I am enjoying most excellent health and am in pretty good spirits. Like my business fine but would like to see Mammie. I recon you have been in the blues good since the Yanks come into the country. Never mind Old Lee is making all things well. He is now following old Meade. Meade is falling back on Washington City. Be of good cheer. A brighter day is coming. Our National horizon will be lit up by the blazing sun of Liberty and Independence. Heaven speed the day!

Bragg is still holding his position at Chattanooga—Beauregard at Charleston.

I repeat, be of good cheer and I’ll get you a pretty. Goodbye! Pleasant dreams be thine. Remember yours &c., — Mc


Screen Shot 2020-04-15 at 6.40.51 AM


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s